This photo was created by Grace Ciszkowski from Celebrating Freedom.
Grace survived the horrors of being kidnapped by a serial rapist / murderer. You can read more about her incredible life journey at her FaceBook page, CelebratinFreedom.
A Helpful Reminder While Recovering from Trauma:
Extinguish fear by relaxing your body.
The brain cannot produce fear while the body is relaxed.
What do you think about these ideas?
When you are feeling fear, can you relax your body?
When you are relaxed, do you feel fear?
When I first saw this photo, I thought of body memories and the effect they have on survivors in the here-and-now.
Have your body memories ever affected you in such a way that it felt impossible to relax and be calm even though you were intellectually aware of being in the current date and time, in a safe place, separate and away from the traumatic situations of the past?
Do the reactions from your body memories ever feel like they are interfering with whatever you are wanting to accomplish?
Do you end up feeling intense fear from the past when you are trying to do something different in the present?
In my experience with dissociative trauma survivors, these are common experiences.
A lifetime full of trauma teaches dissociative people how to separate from their body on an ongoing basis.
This incredible skill initially helped with the survival of terrible abuses, allowing the person to separate from the intensity of the pain, especially during the crisis moments.
After years of repeating the separation of mind and body, this separation becomes the norm.
The body automatically feels like a different entity – it becomes its own “self”, separate from the person.
For survivors with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID / MPD), the insiders of all different ages and sizes may very well not claim the body anyway, adding more reasons to stay disconnected from the body.
Reconnecting with the body takes a lot of work, a lot of practice, and a lot of emotional healing.
The body remembers much of the pain, via cellular memory. Body memories are examples of the body remembering. The body often tenses up and re-experiences the pain that it tried to dissociate from. This can hurt! The body can re-create marks, and bruises, and old welts as well.
How to help?
Teaching the body to relax, and to stay calm, and to not go into traumatic memory is an important part of healing.
1. Process the trauma through talk therapy. Yes, all the insiders of your system need time to talk and talk and talk about the hurts they experienced! Genuine emotional healing allows for more distance from the physical pain of the past, and lessens the chances of unexpected new pains surfacing in the now.
2. Living a genuinely safe life, free from ongoing and current-day abuses is obviously important. Ongoing trauma adds to PTSD symptoms, keeps the body needing to dissociate, keeps fear in the forefront, and obviously goes opposite to being able to relax and feel at peace. The safer you are, the better. For your body to be able to calm down, you need a calm life.
3. Making necessary adjustments and changes to the internal worlds, and cleaning / comforting the inner people and inner worlds helps the outside body as well. The trauma and chaos of the internal world truly impacts the amount of pain felt in the outside body. For example, if Little Jenny on the inside is stuck in a painful traumatic memory situation where she is feeling intense body pain internally, it is essential to internally move her (on the inside) to a new, clean, safe, comfortable place, far away from the traumatic picture she was caught in. If Little Jenny’s inside body isn’t feeling the pain, the outside body can stop feeling the pain as well.
4. EMDR and biofeedback can also be helpful in teaching the body to relax and increase calm. The brain learns new ways to experience calmness and less fear. It’s always good for the brain to learn the feeling of safety, peace, and calm. The brain can help guide the body towards less fear.
5. Participating in any variety of exercises, yoga, or pilates, swimming, safe body massage, sitting in sauna’s or spa’s or hot springs can all help the body to learn how to relax. These exercises will need to be repeated frequently to create new muscle memory.
It is absolutely necessary to teach your tense anxious muscles how to feel peace and calm. The more you don’t know how to feel peace and calm, the more essential it is for you to learn how to have less fear in your life. It is imperative to learn to slow your breathing, and to find a place of quiet, rest, and stress-free living.
And as your body learns to calm, your mind and inner self can calm as well.
Or is it as your mind and inner self learns to calm, your body can calm as well.
I’m not sure which is first — the chicken or the egg — but both are important.
What I do know is…. you’ve experienced more than enough fear, more than enough panic, more than enough pain, more than enough crisis, more than enough adrenaline. Way too much, way too often. And now, now it is okay, very very okay, to learn how to feel calm, peaceful, safe, and unworried.
Yes, extinguish fear by relaxing your body.
Let go of as much fear as you can….
Your body will thank you for it.
Copyright © 2008-2017 Kathy Broady MSW and Discussing Dissociation